FLORENCE VS THE MACHINE. BY: KOZ KRAMER.

We at Building The Revolution welcome story submissions from readers regarding the surf industry or surf retail. The submission below comes from an industry writer who goes by the name Koz Kramer. Koz also wrote THE REALITY OF KIDS TRYING TO BE PROFESSIONAL SURFERS, AND WHAT HAPPENS IF THEY MAKE IT… FOR A WHILE….

Can We Have A Chat About “Florence Marine X”? I Can’t Be Alone Here…

First and foremost, JJF is hands down on my top 3 all time admired surfers.  Number 1 is admittedly Dane Reynolds, both for his innovation and ability to influence an entire era by trying not to do so, and his relevance as an amazing innovator and icon with the oh so relatable dad bod a full decade later.  

JJF is a white kid raised on the North Shore of Oahu by a single mom…   He is surfing’s feel good story, and the one kid who had the spotlight on him at age 8 and managed not to spiral out due to the pressure and influence that so many others dubbed “the next Kelly slater”. (Where you at TJ Barron?) 

JJF is a story we can all get behind, and he did it low key, in hushed tones, and became one of the (if not THE) most well rounded surfer we have ever seen.  Amongst the best in all categories.  Securing one of the biggest contracts ever heard of in surfing via Hurley (Nike really)  just a few short years ago. And no one could argue the acquisition or the price tag. As there were many brands courting him at a similar rate.   He is Kelly Slater 2.0 but with an actual sense of self awareness. 

Which after losing Hurley to a Nike fire sale (which was long overdue)  JJF watched as the namesake Hurley family was shown the door, and quickly found a respectable buyout to walk out the door with them.  And we all wondered where he would land, my money was on Vans, and that would have been the smart money if JJF was half as smart as I gave him credit for.  

First off, does anyone look at the name “Florence Marine X” and not start humming “The Dog Days are Over”?  If you’re a bit slow, that is a song from “Florence and The Machine”.  Far more relevant in pop culture than JJF.  Truth bomb…  

So why JJF?  Why? 

 I look at the surfers who have walked from being the best and most recognizable surfers in the world, through cash made from now failing apparel brands, starting a clothing brand because they think they can do it better. And grossly overestimate their own sense of style and business acumen via the yes men that surround them.   Let us start with Kelly Slater parting Quiksilver to start Outer Known.  It was basically Quiksilver Silver Edition with Patagonia pricing.  I do not see much of it.  But it was tone deaf and Kelly and his team grossly missed Kelly’s sphere of influence and/or their financial bracket. 

 Then you have Dane Reynolds and Craig Anderson starting Former with some pro skaters.  All disgruntled by the fact they had to wear blank pocket t-shirts and chino’s and the tag inside the shirt said Quiksilver and they put a sticker on their board for millions of dollars. How dare Quiksilver demand that of them? They are people who have style and opinions!  Influencers who will take a check to have minimal branding because they have an image to uphold.  But have no problem wiring that check into their bank account. 

Since Former was a direct to consumer business model, there is no give back to anyone except the owners. There are some fringe and/or questionable prints, however There is no message or identity to get behind besides “Cool guy owned and abstract” . And to be honest, it comes off very pretentious.  And last I heard Dane was printing shirts at his house, as Craig has been doing fuck all to help float the brand.  

Which now goes back to JJF and the Machine X.  As surfing’s widely recognized Golden Child, JJF has paired up with surfing’s first family of naming brands after themselves (Hurley)  and come up with a curiously strange crossover clothing  offering. “ Florence Marine X” sounds like the shop I would go buy a new gasket for a leaky bilge pump on my Boston Whaler.  But no, it is the latest offering from the first family of disgruntled surf tycoons and JJF.  

I mean, first off, how big is the market for surfers who cross identify with sailing and surfing?  You are segmenting very segmented consumer groups.  Second, this mission statement given by Florence and the Machine X is a full on retread of existing brands. “we want to explore, have fun, learn, and challenge ourselves. We’re building things that motivate us to get outside and thrive in the elements while doing our best to protect the ocean and the land.”   This is the delusion of pro surfers.   Can anyone say Depactus?  And furthering my point about pro surf business delusion,  the product he is most excited about is the one that no one else likes. 

“John Florence: I’m probably most excited about the hooded rashguards, haha! Seriously though, none of my friends think they are cool, but my brothers and I have been wearing them…” stab mag interview.  

 He goes on to mention how he loves being part of the process of designing products, but it never ends up being quite as he imagined it.  And here is some breaking news JJ, it is because professional athletes do not understand that it has to be sellable. And that the things that they need, are not the same as what the broad consumer base would need. 

 This is the lack of business awareness that will ensure its failure if the name doesn’t seal its fate first.  I mean, “X” in anything is cringeworthy after what X Games did to “Action Sports”. Where they saw surfing  being grouped in the same demographic to Freestyle Snowmobile Jumps.  

 Salty Crew sells t shirts and sweat shirts and a few hats…. Is anyone asking for their denim offering?  They operate within a price point. Surfing and fishing is closer to a relatable concept and makes some sense. But my question is, why is surfing so uncool in the eyes of these people that it cannot be a stand alone and have any measure of success?  I don’t fucking sail, nor do I aspire to.  And if I did, is there any shortage of companies to get sailing gear from?  The answer is no! There are already a myriad of sailing and marine brands, and it they will likely be a better option than some surf/sail company trying to mix things up!

Very few  of us surfers  have the financial resources of JJF.  So owning a sailboat is most likely out of reach for the consumer group this brand may appeal to. I mean hell,  Kelly cant sell a $60 t shirt to surfers, how do Bob Hurley and JJF think that the price of a sailboat is some minor barrier of entry for people to identify with the brand? 

And lets talk about the Hurley family acquisition of Simple Shoes. Why? Is Ryan and Jeff Hurley unemployable anywhere else that Dad is not the primary figure?  I cannot speak to their skillset, so I will not. 

 I wish that JJF would come to his senses, and see an opportunity to continue his path to being an Olympic Gold Medalist, and seeing the benefit of signing a long term deal with Vans, so that he can continue to cash checks for the rest of his life, instead of writing them. 

Can someone with any sphere of influence come online and create a surf focused brand?  Let surfers be proud to identify with being a surfer.  And not muddy the water because everyone else has. I understand that you don’t want to limit your consumer to one discipline, because it is limiting. However, having one foot in surf and another in “X”, you are splitting yourself in half and going to work twice as hard to find relevance. 

In closing, I would like to solve for “X”

X= discount rack at Tj Maxx.  X= JJF sponsor hunting again in 2023. And finally X= more noise in a crowded room. 

Yours Truly,

Koz Kramer. 

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